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Contribution: "The hospital as a place of drama classes, a new development dynamic" by Ophélie Martin

Even if the approach is above all therapeutic, the psychiatric hospital of Avignon’s theater company, Le Théâtre de l’Autre Scène (The Other Stage Theater), made up with patients and hospital workers, enable great perspectives for care and professional development.

This Part Time Therapeutic Reception Centre, located at Montfavet, was born in 1989 at the instigation of the doctor Pandelon and his researches about therapeutic art. Today, the troupe produces two plays during the Festival OFF. Véronique Alla, nurse and comedienne at the Autre Scène, sees everyday what this artistic training bring to patients in their daily life, to the hospital and to the Avignon area.

A therapeutic place

The Autre Scène is thought above all a care place for psychotic patients. Different types of patients are welcomed: hospitalized people, people from the Medico-psychological Centre and former patients. They are around fifty participants divided into three groups.

The goal of the three nurses, who are comedians and coaches at the same time, is, firstly, to help patients enjoy a change from their daily life and take a weight off patients’ minds, secondly, to boost self-confidence.

In the long run, these benefits enable them to have a social life more blooming even to become independent. For some former patients, the theater company enables them to stay in get a check-up and a life balance all the while keeping their independence. These elements are not really quantifiable. However, the conclusion is agreed by all patients of the Montfavet Theater: nurses observe a real increase in self-control, well-being, solidarity, openness towards others and the unknown, self-confidence. It means that, thanks to the theater, patients benefit from a real socialization. Then, they will be able to use it outside of the l’Autre Scène.

A professional troupe

According to the theater workers, the company can be therapeutic only if it is thought with a professional aim. It means that nurses provide true stage training because they are already comedians and they employ a professional stage director to teach participants. This therapeutic rigor serves some considerable objectives: three weeks of show at the Festival OFF of Avignon and the resocialization of participants. Thus, they create and rehearse 2 hours per week, from September to June. If the theater wasn’t considered as a professional troupe, the therapy wouldn’t be so much successful. This professionalism is particularly encouraged and made possible by the positive feedback from the audience and by the reputation and the media coverage by doctor Pandelon. The psychiatric hospital of Avignon seems modern, knowing how renew itself, to providing therapies that work.

A nearly self-financed company

Yet, the Avignon city council doesn’t participate in the training’s financing. Indeed, the Théâtre de l’Autre Scène is nearly self-financed. It lives off earnings from its staged plays, the sale of its books, the sale of patients’ artworks, the pay for external interventions of the nurses, the cost of theater short trainings. The company is aided by two associations: the hospital board and Thetis. The former aims at the patients’ resocialization and the latter provides professional training to patients.

L’Autre Scène is a new form of social cohesion through which at the same time, patients can receive psychiatric care and also build a new vision for society where ill people, dependent, are not considered differently from independent people and the city of Avignon that would welcome such evolutions.

Thanks to Véronique Alla and Théâtre de l’Autre Scène team for their answers.

Ophélie Martin, Master 1 Publics de la culture et communication, Université d'Avignon

Photo legend: Théâtre de l'Autre Scène, Hôpital Montfavet

Photo credit: Ophélie Martin